S Arabia agrees to restart $1.5bn annual oil aid to Pakistan in July: FT

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Islamabad

Saudi Arabia has agreed to restart oil aid to Pakistan worth at least $1.5 billion annually in July, according to officials in Islamabad, as Riyadh works to counter Iran’s influence in the region.

The acrimony between the two long-time allies has eased after Prime Minister Imran Khan met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in May, according to Financial Time.

News of the oil deal with Pakistan comes as Saudi Arabia embarks on a diplomatic push with the US and Qatar to build a front against Iran, said analysts.

Riyadh lifted a three-year blockade of Qatar in January in what experts said was an attempt to curry favour with the newly elected Joe Biden.

Pakistan had shifted closer to Saudi Arabia’s regional rivals Iran and Turkey, which, along with Malaysia, have sought to establish a Muslim bloc to rival the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Khan has developed a strong rapport with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, encouraging Pakistanis to watch the Turkish historical television series Dirilis Ertugrul (Ertugrul’s Resurrection) for its depiction of Islamic values.

Ali Shihabi, a Saudi commentator familiar with the leadership’s thinking, said that “bad blood” had accumulated between Riyadh and Islamabad, but recent bilateral meetings had “cleared the air” and reset relations to the extent that oil credit payments would restart soon.

A senior Pakistan government official said: “Our relations with Saudi Arabia have recovered from [a downturn] earlier.

Saudi Arabia’s support will come through deferred payments [on oil] and the Saudis are lookrefully, it is dependent on China for the Belt and Road, dependent on the west for loans,” said Rashi. “This is a very complex game.” —TLTP

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